Cockpit Theatre, London
All or Nothing Repertory Theatre Company’s My Other Self: The Evolution of Shakespeare’s Richard III weaves together elements of Henry VI Parts 2 and 3 and Richard III to show the influences and events that shaped Richard into one of Shakespeare’s most fascinating villains.
While I am an avid fan of Shakespeare, I’m less familiar with Henry VI, which brought a welcome freshness to the piece. Based on the premise that villains are created, rather than simply born that way, Simon Stewart’s adaptation is full of passion and fury.
The different elements of Richard’s story are brought together in a compelling, non-linear way that brings to life the psychological trauma our Richard III experiences, without excusing his own culpability. This is a man with a strong, warrior father, whose brother Rutland was murdered, and who was told by those who should love him, that he was born wrong. Is it any surprise he turned out the way he did?
The company of actors give universally strong performances, bringing the story to life with a compelling fluency and verve. Lindsey Huebner is magnificent as the strong-willed Queen Margaret, while Simon Stewart’s Duke of York roars with ambition and determination. Alasdair McLaughlin is convincingly tortured as our Richard III, often playing a bystander to the events that shaped his life.
There are some lovely ideas incorporated into this production that enhance the emotional impact of the story. An engaging use of puppetry brings various young princes to life, endowing them with a sense of childlike innocence. We have recurring visits from three Richard III shadow-selves who engage with our central Richard, sharing his tormented inner thoughts in a dynamic and creative way, that in the context of the piece is more compelling than a standard monologue.
‘My Other Self’ does not look to excuse the villain Richard becomes, but it does help us understand him better. I think that any fans of Richard III will find a lot to enjoy. The show roars with battles and is delivered with an invigorating energy, whilst being tinged with an underlying thread of madness.
‘My Other Self’ runs at the Cockpit Theatre at 7pm until Friday 23rd August and I highly recommend it to all lovers of Shakespeare.
And while you are there, I also recommend staying for the 9pm show of the excellent ‘The Werewolf of Washington Heights’. That review is nipping on the heels of this one.